Parent Perspective: Nurturing Connection and Reaffirming Our Family’s TCS Why

Fabienne, a TCS parent to second grader Blake, shares how her family is finding connection with family, neighbors and the TCS community; implementing tips and tricks for self-care and engagement; and finding gratitude while social distancing. 

As stressful and uncertain as this period in time is, I am grateful to have the privilege to see my son, Blake, experiencing learning and development up close and personal. This pandemic has pushed his independence forward, yielding qualities of resilience, grit, patience and creativity – all of which are invaluable traits he may not have developed until later in life. Right now, our family is more protective of the energy in our home. We pay keen attention to non-verbal communication  and remind each other to take a deep breath — kids need self care, too. 😆

Nurturing connection looks very different for the members of the Gordon family. I’m  the solo extrovert in the family, so my guys embrace the home with open arms and endless stacks of pajamas. I respect their desire and need to engage internally by reading, coding games, and taking online drawing classes, but every now and then Blake indulges in my silly ideas.

A few weeks ago, I looked down at the calendar and realized that I hadn’t driven the car in three weeks. So, I crafted my version of “Carpool Clue!” Blake had to answer neighborhood trivia questions related to some of our favorite places or people. Questions like; “These neighborhood gems are steps away from one another. Many autumn mornings we scoop up delicious sweet treats and walk to this shop where the shop owner reminds you to be a brave and kind kid. Name that place.”

He guessed two of our favorite small businesses, Revolution Doughnuts and Brave + Kind Bookshop.  When he answered correctly, a familiar face would pop out and say, “Hello!” and place pre-purchased items into our trunk or have a physically-distanced chat.

He correctly answered all questions, which allowed us to visit his Nana from the car while she stood in her garage and shared her love for Tik Tok; check-in on the dinosaurs at the Fernbank Museum fountain; and have a driveway/porch conversation with two cousins in Avondale.

The questions were easy and prompted my introvert to engage in conversations like, “What are you doing while in quarantine, Nana?”, “Wait, your school uses Seesaw too?” and, “When we get out of quarantine, I can’t wait to go to Avery’s house and play Roblox.” The drive to the next clue made space for me to touch upon family values of empathy, gratitude, service, and connect not only to our friends and family, but have a deeper appreciation for the community that we live in and learn the value of being a good neighbor.

Let’s be honest here—2020 is doing the MOST and taking advantage of us all! I am a parent who works outside of the home. I say this often, and I say it in that order because my main priority is being a parent. Whether I am toggling between my professional obligations, scurrying to troubleshoot a technical issue with a “new-to-me” platform for Blake, or placing my online grocery order, anyone can relate to the fact that this year is uncomfortably new.

A few lessons that I have leaned into while physical distancing are:

  • Be flexible with yourself and your child. This is new for you, for them, and for teachers. There are days when I can tell that Blake is not able to embrace the full learning schedule and I set expectations. “Do what matters the most to you and do your best work.” That way, he is in control and committing to his interests and I follow through with the accountability. The rest will carry over and by Saturday afternoon the week’s lessons need to be completed.
  • Ask for help. Leverage your community. I think this has been one of the greatest things to model for Blake. I don’t always have the answer or know what to do, so I reach out to others to ask for help. TCS Counselor Natalie Grubbs provided resources when Blake shared some of his worries with me and I did not know how to shape answers to really tough questions. I am part of a few text chains and when another parent can’t make the parent office hours Blake’s teachers have set up, I have offered to take their questions to the teacher and find out on their behalf.
  •  Get organized. First, let me say that this is NOT my superpower but, I have added Blake’s daily schedule to my work schedule for awareness. Also, I write the schedule out on a board with boxes for Blake to check off.
  • Zone defense.  Sharing a space with three people who are in and out of virtual meeting spaces can be challenging. But, having a dedicated space for everyone is helpful and knowing when to change it up can be a game changer for re-focusing.  So, that means that sometimes Blake completes assignments out on the porch, cozies up on the couch for live reading with Callie (tip: use your chromecast to project this session onto your TV), and virtual classroom hangouts in his bunk bed.
  • Gratitude. We’ve always practiced gratitude, but more than ever we find and recognize the smallest things can put an incredibly overwhelming day into perspective.
  • Be silly, have fun, and play. In the first few weeks, I was doing all the things that have lingered on the to do list. As the days turned into weeks, our favorite moments, though, have been building cardboard VR goggles, pranking each other, learning complicated Tik Tok dances, and predicting who will get the boot from Guy’s Grocery Games. In those moments, we are laughing, creating memories, and releasing stress.

I have been really surprised at how resilient Blake has been throughout this time and marvel at the skills that have emerged. As the teachers have experimented with remote learning tools, implemented virtual norms, and fostered connection, Blake has emailed them directly to share his thoughts and concerns, without any prompting from us. His teachers, Jess and Kole, have both welcomed and encouraged him to continue to write emails. Tucked inside those emails, I see my eight-year- old writing thoughtful sentences, asking for help, and advocating for issues that matter to him — his genuine student-teacher relationships continue to grow.

The days may look different in HOW he connects with all of his teachers and his education, but he is still learning multiplication and using mental math to solve problems, writing an informational book on owls, creating original artwork inspired by Tiny Doors ATL, building upon his Chinese language skills with Yingli, and diving in to immersive STEAM projects with Kelly. 

For me, WHY I chose TCS has been reaffirmed in the last few weeks. Amid all that we are adapting to, life is still happening to us and those around us. We are learning to grieve at home and apart from those we love and show support to others remotely. I have personally appreciated the flexibility to do what is best for us. The Children’s School has provided multiple student-centered frameworks that adapt to the needs of our family and open channels for connecting. It is not lost on me that many schools around Atlanta do not have these resources. Thank you, TCS, for always doing the most for the children.